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RFCLA Looking To End Season With Win Against Utah

06 16 Match Nola Rugby FCLA DHI 6433 1
2 weeks ago

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles have announced the starting line-up for their last match of the Major League Rugby season, against the Utah Warriors on Friday, June 28, kicking off at 8:30pm MST (7:30pm PST) at America First Field in Sandy, Utah.

RFCLA are looking to wrap up their first MLR season on a high note. “We’ve had some tough results but have played some pretty enjoyable rugby,” said full-back Rory Van Vugt (No. 15). “We’ve got our game plan in place. We’re looking for a win to finish our season off.”

Van Vugt was born on October 8, 1997 in Balclutha, New Zealand. He started playing for his older brother’s team at the age of four. “In New Zealand, you’re just around [rugby] from the start,” Van Vugt said. “I always really wanted to play.” He continued to play through high school, switching to the backs as he grew as a player. He made the first XV (the top school team) during his last three years in high school.

The 27-year-old, who is 6’ 2” and 202 lbs, got his first professional rugby experience with the New Zealand club Rugby Southland in 2018. Two years later, through a connection, he heard Rugby ATL in the MLR were looking for players, and signed a one-year contract. Covid cut his first MLR season short, so he went home and played for Southland again, also playing a couple of games with Highlanders in Super Rugby, while re-negotiating his contract with Rugby ATL. When Rugby ATL announced its decision to relocate to Los Angeles last year and become RFCLA, Van Vugt was working in New Zealand as a carpenter after playing another season with Southland. “It was the offseason… There were four months of the year, so I was working,” he said.

After re-signing with Rugby ATL, Van Vugt found out the team was relocating to Los Angeles, and he hasn’t looked back since. “I had an attachment to Atlanta, but [this] was a new opportunity [to] build something new from the start,” he said. “It was more exciting.”

He thinks both cities have great rugby fans, but there is a “slight difference.” “People in LA already know rugby, whereas in Atlanta it wasn’t as common.”

“Just walking around, you’ve got your team kit on — they seem to notice it,” he said. RFCLA fans have given their team a big boost this year, he added. “I think each week we’ve noticed more numbers in the stands, which has been pretty good. We’ve seen growth from Game One.”

Van Vugt, who will head back to New Zealand to play another season in mid-July, has enjoyed playing RFCLA’s “loose brand of rugby,” and said fans can expect more of the same against the Utah Warriors, in part thanks to RFCLA’s coaching staff. “We stick with our game plan [but] we have free license to express ourselves in our own individual ways of playing rugby.”

RFCLA have a record of 4-10-1; the Warriors are 5-10.

RFCLA have made some changes to their XV this week: Dane Zander is back at loosehead prop (No. 1) and Jason Damm comes in for Max Katjijeko at lock (No. 4). Katjijeko moves to flanker (No. 7) as Matt Heaton sits this one out; Bruce Kauika-Peterson replaces Bruce Yun at flanker (No. 6). Christian Rodriguez starts at scrum-half (No. 9) as Tas Smith moves to fly-half (No. 10). Brooklyn Hardaker replaces Henry Speight on the blind-side wing (No. 11); Seth Purdey moves to inside center (No. 12) as Will Leonard starts at outside center (No. 13) and Andrew Coe starts at open-side wing (No. 14).

RFCLA’s starting lineup for June 28, against the Utah Warriors:

1. Dane Zander (Prop)

2. Ben Strang (Hooker/Captain)

3. Alex Maughan (Prop/Vice Captain)

4. Jason Damm (Lock)

5. Reegan O’Gorman (Lock)

6. Bruce Kauika-Peterson (Flanker)

7. Max Katjijeko (Flanker)

8. Semi Kunatani (No. 8)

9. Cristian Rodriguez (Scrum-half)

10. Tas Smith (Fly-Half)

11. Brooklyn Hardaker (Wing)

12. Seth Purdey (Inside Center)

13. Will Leonard (Outside Center)

14. Andrew Coe (Wing)

15. Rory Van Vugt (Full-back)

Reserves:

16. Alessandro Heaney (Prop)

17. Sam Buckley (Prop)

18. Conor Young (Prop)

19. Liam Antrobus (Lock)

20. Derek Adams (Back)

21. Matt Anticev (Back )

22. Austin White (Back)

23. Sam Walsh (Back)

Friday’s match will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and live-streamed on The Rugby Network outside the US, at 8:30 pm local time (7:30 PST).

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